It’s somewhat surprising to see a team this active ahead of the NFL Draft. Over the past two days alone, the San Francisco 49ers have added running back Wayne Gallman as well as defensive linemen Arden Key and Maurice Hurst in free agency.
Gallman comes over to the 49ers after excelling as Saquon Barkley’s injury replacement with the New York Giants a season ago. The former mid-round pick from Clemson recorded nearly 800 total yards at a clip of 4.7 yards per rush. He’ll join a stacked backfield that includes Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson.
As for the 49ers’ signings of Key and Hurst, both will provide valuable depth in the defensive front seven. Selected by the then Oakland Raiders in the 2018 NFL Draft, the two were surprise releases earlier this week. In particular, Hurst is a great signing for the San Francisco 49ers. He finished in the top-11 among interior defensive linemen in pass-rush rate a season ago.
With the 2021 NFL Draft approaching and the 49ers nearing a franchise-altering decision with the third pick, we figured it made sense to look at three moves general manager John Lynch and Co. could make following these three signings.
Sherman previously noted that it’s highly unlikely he’ll return to the 49ers for a fourth season due to their salary cap situation. Right now, that might not be the case. The future Hall of Fame cornerback remains a free agent and will likely wait until the draft concludes to latch on with a team.
Even after re-signing the likes of Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams and Emmanuel Moseley in free agency, the 49ers still have a need at cornerback. In fact, they could address that need in the second round of next week’s NFL Draft. Currently $18.44 million under the cap, San Francisco could potentially afford to re-sign Sherman should the team fail to land a corner early in the draft. It almost makes too much sense at this point.
The 49ers’ decision to sign 32-year-old wide receiver Mohamed Sanu doesn’t change the dynamics too much. He recorded a mere 17 catches for 187 yards in stints with San Francisco and the Detroit Lions in 2020. Simply put, Sanu is not the short-term option in the slot for the 49ers.
Without much to write home about behind Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel at receiver, the 49ers are in a position where they must address this position in either free agency or the draft. Bringing in a still-productive 32-year-old Tate on the cheap could make sense. He caught 67% of his targets with the New York Giants last season prior to being released earlier in the spring. Tate would make sense as a short-term option as the 49ers potentially mold a draft pick to take over in the slot.
One thing has become pretty clear with these recent signings. San Francisco now has an ability to move back into the first round of next week’s NFL Draft should the team target a specific player and/or position. EDGE pass rush was a need ahead of the Key signing. While that could still be true, the 49ers are also returning Dee Ford behind Nick Bosa and signed underrated veteran Samson Ebukam from the division-rival Los Angeles Rams in free agency.
Someone like former Mississippi wide receiver Elijah Moore could make sense if the 49ers were to trade back into the first round. He’s a perfect fit in the slot in Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system. Heck, reigning Heisman finalist Najee Harris was linked to the 49ers prior to them trading up to the third pick. The Northern California native could be an option as a luxury pick should he fall come draft day.